Don’t zoom through this latest entry in Lehane’s illustrious body of work. You’ll miss plenty of intrigue, intricacies, and emotional subtleties.
The clinical term for what ails journalist Rachel Childs is “agoraphobia.” Even if the term didn't appear twice in the novel, it'd be easy enough for the reader to identify—and identify with—her pain thanks to Lehane’s delicate, incisive rendering of her various symptoms. They include panic, rage, depression, and, most of all, self-loathing. (“That’s who I’ve become,” she thinks to herself. “A creature below contempt.”) The reasons behind Rachel’s breakdown are likewise cataloged in short, vivid strokes: a childhood spent mostly with her brittle, brilliant mother who refused to tell her anything at all about her father, leading to a yearslong search for that father culminating in desolation and heartbreak. The coup de grâce to Rebecca’s self-esteem comes when her meteoric rise to prominence as a Boston TV reporter literally crashes from her on-camera nervous collapse while covering the aftermath of the 2010 Haiti earthquake. Through all these jolts and traumas, one person is always around, whether close or from a distance: Brian Delacroix, a witty, handsome Canadian-born businessman whom she first meets as a private investigator, later through his occasional “keep-your-chin-up” e-mails, and then, after she’s all but locked herself away in her apartment, outside a South End bar. Brian gradually becomes the only one who can even begin to draw Rachel out of her deep blue funk, first as a confidant, then as a lover, and finally as her husband. Happily ever after? You know there’s no such thing in a Lehane novel if you’ve dived into such rueful, knotty narratives as Mystic River (2001), Shutter Island (2003), and World Gone By (2015). It spoils nothing to disclose that Brian isn't quite who Rachel thinks he is. But as she discovers when she tentatively, gradually subdues her demons to seek the truth, Rachel isn’t quite who she thinks she is either.
What seems at the start to be an edgy psychological mystery seamlessly transforms into a crafty, ingenious tale of murder and deception—and a deeply resonant account of one woman’s effort to heal deep wounds that don’t easily show.